Berlin is steeped in 20th Century history and the same goes for the Olympiastadion, the grand home of Hertha Berlin. Mark Salkeld paid a visit for a Champions League fixture.
“It all started one morning with a message from my fellow football travelling friend telling me he had been allocated some time off. Having looked through the fixtures there were several games which stood out. I found return flights from nearby Manchester for three days in the German capital for the measly sum of £47 at the time of Hertha Berlin’s first Champions League Group Stage game since 2010.”
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Hertha Berlin stadium
Flying out at the crack of dawn from Manchester to Berlin Schönefeld Airport to the south of the city on the Wednesday left us with enough time to mop up the parts of the city we’d missed in a previous trip 18 months prior.
On that occasion, we’d made our maiden trip to the city to see one of Pep Guardiola’s final games as manager at Bayern Munich before coming over to work in the city of our departure, watching as Arturo Vidal and a Douglas Costa screamer sealed a 2-0 away victory for the Bavarians.
On that occasion, the three of us who travelled were encapsulated by the Ostkurve and their constant noise and animation for the side even despite a poor showing on the field, not even pausing for breath during the 90 minutes played.
The Olympiastadion was all that we’d expected it to be, providing a surprisingly raucous atmosphere given the usual issues to be found at stadiums with a running track. For all those who have visited a stadium of that size and importance, you’ll be familiar with the jaw-dropping moment you make your way up those steps to take your first look at the green turf, and this was no different.
With an afternoon to spend in the city, we first ventured out to our favourite memory of Berlin. At first look, a disused, renovated subway toilet close to the remaining standing part of the Berlin Wall may not be the obvious place to start a three-day city break but that did not stop us. Simply, if you find yourself in Berlin, then ensure you visit Burgermeister (Google it). It would be one of three visits over the course of 72 hours.
Along the banks of the aforementioned Spree there is a section of the historic wall named the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain over which artists were invited to create murals. There are over 100 of murals, each with a different meaning and certainly worth a visit if you find yourself with a spare couple of hours.
Next up on the agenda was to head into Alexanderplatz, and after a brief shambolic attempt to recreate the scene from The Bourne Supremacy where Jason Bourne ghosts his way onto a U-Bahn train in the square, we decided against scaling the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) located there.
Having visited the Reichstag building and a three-hour walking tour of the city on our previous trip and the inevitable tiredness from a 4am start, we decided to have a couple of drinks in the hotel bar before getting our heads down for the night.
The next day we visited Kurfürstendamm to visit the shopping district and pick up some gifts for family, friends and of course ourselves before heading back to the hostel and getting ourselves ready for the highlight of the trip at the wonderful Olympiastadion.
The game itself was a true disappointment, ending in a stale 0-0 draw. There were not many opportunities within the game itself and it had all gone stale by the time that Hertha’s manager Pál Dárdai introduced summer signing Mathew Leckie who provided some brief spurts of entertainment, but not the goal we were hoping for.
Hertha’s Ostkurve were once again impressive, and kept the noise levels high whilst also choreographing several visually striking chants and series of clapping. After the end of the game, and inevitably another currywurst, we made our way down to the club shop to browse and attempt to justify buying a club shirt. As it was, I ended up being relived of 70 euros on a waterproof, lightweight training midlayer in a cool blue colour which has served me rather well so far in autumnal Northern weather!
Berlin ice hockey
On the Friday we had also decided that we’d take in an ice hockey game between Grizzlys Wolfsburg and Eisbären Berlin at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. We certainly weren’t left disappointed!
The arena itself was a compact 14,000 or so all seater indoor arena complete with a ‘FanKurve’ which aimed to bring the famed atmosphere at Bundesliga and Bundesliga II games to the ice hockey arena. They spent the whole game chanting, clapping and being generally animated to try and help the team to a win. Fortunately, we managed to see them score two late goals to beat the team from Wolfsburg 2-1. It was certainly a fantastic experience, and one we both were not really expecting much from which seemed to enhance our enjoyment. We’d both thoroughly recommend an ice hockey game if you happen to be in Germany and have a spare night to occupy yourself after the football is over!
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This is an edited version of a feature that first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, the fan’s guide for great trips in Europe and the UK. Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk for more details.
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